IndyCar 2022 preview: Romain Grosjean’s Andretti move tops drivers joining new teams

IndyCar Grosjean Andretti
Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Even before the first lap in his new elite NTT IndyCar Series ride, life already has been a little easier for Romain Grosjean this year.

The Swiss-born Frenchman who became a fan favorite last year as an emerging star no longer needs to use his American-friendly middle name (David) in trying to simplify his coffee order at Starbucks.

“I was able to download the app because now I’ve got an American phone number,” Grosjean, who moved his family from Europe to the Miami area in the offseason, told NBC Sports with a laugh. “So now because I order it in advance, it just comes with the right name.”

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But the correct pronunciation?

“No,” Grosjean said with a laugh.

Perhaps that final piece of name recognition will come with the move to Andretti Autosport, where Grosjean, 35, will race the full 2022 season after an impressive rookie campaign on road and street courses for Dale Coyne Racing.

Transitioning from a decade of racing Formula One, Grosjean immediately adapted to IndyCar, winning the pole position for his third start and finishing second in May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He also fell for America during a monthlong tour of the Midwest with his wife and three kids in a motorhome (his two young boys now will play baseball after being introduced in batting cages last summer).

“I could tell that they were really happy being here, and that just triggered everything,” he said. “We found a school for the kids, found a house and moved in at the end of December in Florida, and we’re just loving it.”

It was a whirlwind year that started with near-tragedy when Grosjean escaped death in a terrifying crash at Bahrain. The fiery wreck ended his F1 career but also led to his rebranding as “The Phoenix,” and the comeback story was appealing to an IndyCar fan base that also appreciated his success.

Colton Herta Wins Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Alex Palou Wins Indycar Season Championship
Romain Grosjean reacts to fans cheering during the Grand Prix of Long Beach (Will Lester/MediaNews Group via Getty Images).

“The fans last year were unbelievable, and I can’t wait to see them again this year,” he said. “I hope they’re going to keep embracing the rise of ‘The Phoenix.’ It was incredible. Even Long Beach when I retired (in 24th because of a crash), I was sitting on a pit wall, and I was disappointed because I didn’t want the season to end that way. And then all the grandstands facing my pit box went up and started shouting my name and clapping. And I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ Just from a terrible day, it just became a good day.”

With some measure of confusion (after becoming accustomed to their father struggling in F1 over the past five seasons), Grosjean’s children got to witness the fervor at the inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee.

“They saw all the crowd screaming, ‘Grosjean! Grosjean!’, so they were asking me, ‘Why is everyone calling you?’ It was quite cute,” Grosjean said. “Actually seeing Daddy competing at the front and fighting with the top guys in IndyCar, they absolutely loved it.”

Though he had 10 podiums in F1, his last was in 2015 and nearly all were before his kids were born. This season will be his first in more than a decade to compete for a championship with “all the ingredients to be able to fight at the front” with Andretti.

Grosjean, who also brought engineer Olivier Boisson along from Coyne, will be teamed with Colton Herta (who won the final two races of 2021) and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

“It’s great to have so many teammates at Andretti with guys that have been winning the 500, winning street and road courses, fighting a championship,” Grosjean said. “It’s just going to be great to have all those guys that I can share information with. I’m looking forward to drive next to them and see how I can improve myself, because I think that’s the beauty of sports and motorsports is that you can always try to get better.”

Romain Grosjean signs autographs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment).

Grosjean’s jump to Andretti is among a few high-profile switches in IndyCar this season. A look at some other drivers with new digs for 2022:

JACK HARVEY, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

No other driver has seemed more on the verge of his first NTT IndyCar Series victory than Harvey, but he still missed the podium during his first two full-time seasons at Meyer Shank Racing – and was burned multiple times by some curious strategy calls.

“To be honest, that wasn’t lost on me when it came time to make the decision,” Harvey told NBC Sports about his move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the 2022 season. “We had a lot of bad luck. That being said, we had a lot of bad decisions. You look at the unfortunate things that happened, it was maybe 50-50, some bad luck, some bad decisions. We needed to do a better job controlling what you can control.”

Harvey, 28, seized control by leaving his comfort zone. The Brit made his IndyCar debut with MSR in 2017 and had progressed in lockstep with co-owners Mike Shank and Jim Meyer as the team gradually became a series fixture. He will leave all those ties behind in the move to RLL, which he weighed heavily with management and family.

“It felt like a step forward for me and my racing career,” Harvey said. “It was just an evolving conversation between me, my parents, my manager, and I think we all just felt like this was a great opportunity.

“It doesn’t feel like there’s more pressure, but I would say there’s no safety net. Being with Mike and Jim and my relationship with (sponsors) AutoNation and SiriusXM, maybe there was a little more of a safety net. But it was something that we chatted about and kind of just disregarded. I just want to be in the best place where I can try and get results, and I wanted the pressure to be on myself so that I’m responsible for my destiny. I’m in a place where I want to be.”

SIMON PAGENAUD, Meyer Shank Racing

After winning the 2016 championship and 2019 Indy 500 in seven seasons at Team Penske, Pagenaud will take a bigger leadership role at Meyer Shank Racing with teammate Helio Castroneves (who will move full time after winning last year’s Indy 500 debut) in the team’s expansion to a second car.

It’ll be a major culture shift in moving from a storied team with 18 Indy 500 wins to an organization that still is ramping up operations at a new shop in Pataskala, Ohio. But Pagenaud (who also became a first-time father last year) relishes the opportunity as “big new chapter in my career” and “a natural match” for leveraging his experience.

“Team Penske’s a huge organization, has 54 years of experience and amazing people on board with experience at all levels, and obviously there’s a philosophy of work, and it works for them,” Pagenaud, 37, told NBC Sports. “It’s a great team. The last seven years if you look at the records we had, it was phenomenal. Now I’ve moved on to a new part of my racing life, and was very attracted to this project.


“Just taking a bigger role within a team, having the chance to be there a bit more on a daily basis and say, ‘Listen, I think we should be doing this for the future, for the development of our car and the team. This guy is really good. We should hire him’ and so on.

“It’s little things, but it’s daily discussions I have with (co-owners) Mike Shank and Jim Meyer that I didn’t have a say in at Penske because they’re established and have their way of doing things, and that’s totally fine. And what I’m seeing now is an opportunity for me to grow into a bigger role within the team and take that leadership driver role alongside Helio and try to make the team a top team.”

TAKUMA SATO, Dale Coyne Racing

After racing from 2018-21 in his second stint with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Sato will be driving for his fifth team in IndyCar.

The two-time Indy 500 winner turned 45 last month but said he feels as fit as ever entering his 13th consecutive season in IndyCar. Sato’s six career victories all have come since turning 40.

“I know the time will come in the end, but this is motor racing, and there’s lots of other pieces that can come with it,” Sato told NBC Sports. “And at least for me, physically and mentally, I feel still like I’m improving. So until the day maybe I will feel differently, then I want to keep continue the challenge and certainly this is not coming for 2022. It’s just another exciting year, so I feel really good about it.”

Coyne’s last win was in 2018, but the team was strong on road courses last year with Grosjean.

“I’m expecting to have a big challenge,” Sato said. “In a way it’s positive, but at the same time, it can be quite difficult. I’m expecting some hard times, too, but the motivation is very high and I’m sure there’s no reason why we can’t be competitive from St. Petersburg straightaway.”

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports